We naturally take our water for granted in this country, which is famed around the world for its inclement weather.
Therefore, most people don’t think twice of leaving the tap running as they brush their teeth; select a longer washing machine cycle than required or switching on a half-filled dishwasher.
However, the changing nature of the climate was reflected in this extended summer’s heatwave which left the levels of reservoirs in some areas of the country at worryingly low levels.
One drip from a leaky tap accounts for around 0.25ml of water. Not much, I know, but if a badly warn washer causes that tap to drip once per second, that turns into 15ml per minute, 900ml per hour or 21.6 litres per day – the equivalent of 29 bottles of wine.
Every day more than 17 billion litres enters the country’s water supply system to serve both households and businesses.
In 1830, one person would have used 18 litres per day. Today every person in the UK uses an average of 150 litres a day - much of it heated - for everything from drinking to washing and flushing the loo.
Multiply all the losses emanating from the nation’s dripping taps and leaking pipes and factor in all the unnecessary use and suddenly the water waste is shockingly high.
A traditional flush toilet uses 13 litres of water per flush, a washing machine 70, a five minute shower 35 and the average soak in the bath, 150 litres of water.
There are a whole host of ways in which we can either invest in more efficient technology or use a variety of water saving gadgets. Perhaps the most effective is simply to change the wasteful habits of a lifetime.
For example, using a pressure washer to clean the car will use around 600 litres of water per hour – which means even a two minute blast disposes of 20 litres. An average hosepipe uses up to 1,000 litres per hour
It‘s a much better idea to hand wash the car using a sponge, which often yields a cleaner finish. A typical car can easily be hand washed and rinsed using 20 litres of water.
Likewise, an efficient dishwasher will use about 11 litres of water per wash for a full load, although it’s debatable whether washing by hand saves on that amount.
A typical kitchen sink holds around 20 litres but this doesn’t take into account those who change the water part way through or rinse afterwards.
While dishwashers can be water efficient, the advice is to soak heavily soiled dishes first and scrape large food items into the bin.
One dishwasher load per day at 11 litres equates to 4,015 litres per year. Doing the dishes in the sink could use 7,300 litres per year.
Even if you are unconcerned at an environmental level, the resulting cost is substantial to households, businesses and industry.
For example, a modern Monobloc basin mixer tap uses four to five litres per minute. If the tap is left 20 per cent open it runs at a litre per minute – which is 60 litres per hour or 1,140 litres per day.
A leak of the same size from a business or industrial site uses the same amount of water which costs an estimated £1.87 per day for a leak of one litre per minute.
This also assumes that only one leak has occurred, however large sites have potential for multiple leaks.
We should also consider that some leaks can be at one litre per second, which is 60 times greater in both water loss and cost.
Some leaks which have gone unnoticed or ignored at small commercial premises can cost as much as £4,000 per year while a leak at a major manufacturing site easily costs £10,000. A large leak could potentially pour £20,000 straight down the financial drain.
By saving water, you will also save money, energy, cut carbon dioxide emissions and in doing so protect the environment for future generations.
We must all stop taking our water supply for granted and begin to think of it as a very precious resource which needs to be carefully managed and conserved.